One of my favourite things about the Arabic speaking world is the high value placed on hospitality and the extended family. Living in this part of the world, it is rare that I would be asked questions typical to a western culture upon introducing myself to someone.
“What’s your name?” “What do you do?” are not the question that are asked here, in fact, I cannot recall a single occasion upon which I have been asked my name on first meeting. Upon noticing my non-middle eastern skin tone and hearing my Arabic which gives away that I have not lived here my whole life, the getting to know you conversation often includes at least two of the following…
– “You’re not from here, right? But your spouse is?”
– “How many children do you have?” (Because of course, I am of the age where I “should” have had children)
– “Can I take a photo with you?” (With the intention of it being shared with friends and relatives to see if they think I’d be a good candidate for marriage)
– “Look, here’s a photo of my relative… what do you think?”
– “Oh, you’re not married. Of course, you’re from the west right… you people don’t get married, you just have relationships.”
– “Come to the mosque, we’ll find you a good follower of God to marry”
You see, in this part of the world, I do not make sense. Why would a person leave their biological family, live in a country that is not their own, and not have a husband or children? To many of my friends, this verges on being a sinful decision, if I didn’t have other siblings in my passport country to take care of my parents this would be considered an atrocity. My friends and those I meet want, and expect, me to be part of a collective wider group. I make sense within the parameters of a family, my religious group or a my nationality. No-one makes sense when viewed in isolation from their group.
Find out how Hayat responds to Arabic Speaking Culture in Part 2
Hayat (not her real name) lives in the Arabic speaking world and loves spending time drinking good coffee with friends, chatting about life and sharing stories together to grow in following God.